Sunday, July 10, 2011
So I went.
|One lone woman lawyer at her station, Jln Hang Jebat|
We were all tear-gassed at least three, four times. An NGO staffer was hit by a canister. V told me that she saw people jumping off the second floor of the Puduraya bus terminal because the police had released tear gas too close to the terminal and the wind carried the fumes into the enclosed building. When the marchers ran for shelter in Tung Shin Hospital, the police fired tear gas and water cannons INTO the hospital grounds. Later the police lured us into re-assembling on the road on the pretext of negotiating a peaceful dispersal. They arrested the MP (Sivarasa) who was doing the negotiating, then -- after ordering us to sit down so (as we realised later) we would be sitting ducks -- they fired more tear gas and water cannons at us. A, myself and our companions eventually managed to find a way out from the trap via the Santo Antonius church and (irony of ironies) the car park of the Hang Tuah police station (near the monorail station). There were so many very brave people yesterday.
I now know that smearing toothpaste under the eyes to reduce irritation caused by tear gas actually works (thanks, A)! I'm still itchy and short of breath from all that tear gas, which is a bit annoying. But really, mostly what I remember of the rally was how moving it was: the solidarity among the protesters, how people looked out for one another. Whenever I was tear-gassed there was a stranger running along at my side and offering me and my friends salt to counteract the effects. When the police sprayed chemical-laced water cannons into the crowd and the people affected cried out for water to wash the stuff away, others turned and ran back toward the cannons with bottles of water to help. People helped others climb up a hill towards the hospital to escape (some guy helped me up the steep slope). Someone always stepped up to make sure that a panicked run doesn't turn into a stampede, including an elderly woman who took it upon herself to guide the marchers to safety. She's a first-time marcher to boot! Actually there were lots of first-time marchers, and more young middle-class urbanites than I've ever seen at any other rallies including the 2007 Bersih rally. At one point people started picking up the tear gas canisters and throwing them back at the police, or kicking the canisters safely away from the marchers and bystanders. I heard via the #bersihstories Twitter hashtag when the police fired tear gas into Tung Shin, there were people who grabbed the canisters and wrapped them in their own towels, then threw the canisters into the drain so there wouldn't be so much fumes.
Rakyat all contributing in their own ways!
|Do these people look like hooligans to you?|
|This is what gives a good impression: protestors and police shaking hands before dispersing at 4pm.|